Longtime Payson High School coach Chuck Hardt isn’t a bit shy about telling the story of how he became head track and field coach in 1995.
“(Former head coach) Dan Reid asked Pete (Greer) and I to come on as assistants in 1993 and two years later, Dan stepped down,” he said.
“The head job was going to go to either Pete or I, so we decided to flip a coin. I lost and became the head coach.”
No matter what door Hardt went through to get the job, he stayed on as head coach until retiring in 2007.
Most of those years, Greer served as an assistant, specializing in the throws events.
Along Hardt’s and Greer’s way, the two coached some of the school’s finest athletes, sending some on to college programs at Arizona State, Colorado State and Northern Arizona.
“We had the chance to coach a lot of good kids,” Hardt said.
Because of Hardt’s longtime contributions to the program, the Payson Co-ed Invitational, held April 8, was renamed this year the Chuck Hardt Co-ed Invitational.
Hardt and assistant coach Chuck Yale founded the meet five years ago.
At Wednesday’s meet, he served as event starter, a job he’s done hundreds of times over the past two decades.
Hardt says he’s flattered the meet was named after him, but doesn’t want two other pillars in the program’s foundation to be forgotten.
“Bill Lawson founded the Payson Rotary Invitational about 40 years ago and Dan Reid coached state championship teams in the late 1980s and early ’90s,” he said.
“There’s a lot of history in the program that might get lost and I don’t want that to be lost.”
Hardt contends both Lawson and Reid are equally as deserving as he, and both were huge contributors to the school’s program.
In addition to Hardt’s efforts in track and field, he founded the cross-country program in 1992 as one of four volunteer coaches.
The following season, three of the coaches stepped away as Hardt remained the lone volunteer.
“In those days we had runners I called “Notch Babies” because they didn’t fit in the other programs so they became runners,” he said.
“To get athletes, I had to recruit from my PE classes and the hallways.”
Among those former athletes Hardt recalls with great fondness is Clifford Pirch.
“He was our first all-star,” he said.
Hardt, who taught in the PUSD from 1976 until retiring this year, was an assistant coach on the PHS state championship basketball (1979) and football (1981) teams.
In 2006-2007, he was head coach of the Longhorn basketball team that finished as state runner-up.
During his tenure, he racked up enough Coach of the Year plaques to cover an entire wall of the family home.
In retirement, Hardt has taken up sports officiating.